[page currently under reconstruction]

Monday, November 01, 2010

Chocolate Peanut Squares

If you need a chocolate fix, this is the recipe for you! It's quick and delicious, and it makes plenty to share. I found this recipe quite a while back, and by popular demand, I'm posting the recipe here. Actually, the only change I made to the original recipe is to use minor variations on ingredients. And, I weigh some ingredients rather than using volumetric measurements. Be sure to check out the Joy of Baking website. She has tons of fabulous recipes over there along with great photos of each dish.

Chocolate Peanut Squares

1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/3 cup honey (use a mild flavored honey)
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (I use Hershey's)
1/4 cup light brown sugar
180 grams marshmallows (can use large or mini - about 3 cups of mini)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (use the real thing, no imitation please!)
80 grams (~3 cups) crisp rice cereal (could use Rice Krispies or even Chex in a pinch)
1 cup lightly salted roasted peanuts

8 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Prepare a 8x8-inch square pan by lining it with foil (making sure it comes up & slightly over two sides) & spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Set aside.

Place peanut butter, corn syrup, honey, cocoa powder, and brown sugar in a large saucepan (or a dutch oven) over medium heat. Bring this mixture to a boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to low, add the marshmallows, and stir constantly until mixture is melted and smooth.

Remove from heat and stir in vanilla. Add rice cereal and peanuts. Press mixture into prepared pan and allow to set. (If you're in a hurry, put it in the fridge for ~20 minutes.)

When the bottom is cooled, make the topping: Put the chocolate chips into a microwave-proof bowl. Place butter on top of the chips. Microwave in 20 second intervals, stirring after each interval, until chocolate is mostly melted. (This usually takes about 1 minute total microwaving for me.) Spread the topping over the bottom mixture, and refrigerate until the chocolate has set.

To cut into squares, remove from the pan using the foil 'sling' and cut into squares. Serve cold (my preference) or at room temperature. Yield: 24-36 squares, depending on how large you cut your squares

Recipe slightly adapted from Joy of Baking

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Darings Bakers - Doughnuts

I'm posting late, but I did manage to participate in the Daring Bakers' Challenge this month! The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge DBers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I used the doughnut base from Chuck (recipe here) (because it looked easier than Alton's) and the glaze from Alton (recipe here). I can't say that I'll be making them again soon since I had some trouble maintaining the temperature of the oil, but it was still fun to do. The weird thing is that now I want funnel cake. Mmmm....

Monday, October 11, 2010

Giveaway Post

I'm doing a giveaway on my review site...check it out here!

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Nutella Ganache (Updated)

I thought I'd update this recipe since it's the most viewed on my blog. My previous recipe works best with Nutella produced & sold in Europe (at least, what used to be available) that was much thicker than the current Nutella that is available in the US.

Nutella Ganache

1/2 cup Nutella
1/4 to 1/3 cup heavy cream

Cook in heavy-bottomed sauce pan over MEDIUM heat*, stirring constantly until the mixture is completely smooth (~7-10 minutes). Let ganache cool slightly (~5 minutes). Pour over warm Nutella Bundt Cake (or any kind of cake). Let the ganache cool completely before serving.

*Do NOT use HIGH heat; if you rush this, you won't like the results.

Note: If the mixture is too thin to set up as a typical ganache, simply re-warm it and stir in a handful of chocolate chips (preferably semi-sweet) until smooth. Also, I have not tried to whip this frosting, so I do not know if it can be used as a substitute for whipped ganache.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Culinary Conclusions

I have recently come to some random, yet culinary (i.e., food-related) conclusions in my life:

(1) I am reconciled to the fact that I feel the same way about butter as Julia Child did. And my waistline is reflecting my opinion. Not good.

(2) I don't like cleaning my kitchen. This does not bode well for someone who loves to bake/cook.

(3) I am quite tired of my blog's appearance. I hope to rectify that problem soon with a new layout, etc.

(4) I really like LG products. My new LG fridge = LOVE. Micro/hood combo is great, too.

(5) People who sculpt/decorate character cakes are truly gifted. I, on the other hand, am not blessed with that gift. I'm much better at wedding cakes and the like. Nevertheless, I will probably attempt to make character cakes for my kids' birthdays. Years from now we'll just laugh at the pictures.

(6) Grocery store cashiers who fail to/cannot properly scan and account for multiple coupons are frustrating. I know it might not be their fault, but it irritates me nonetheless...so do prices that are marked incorrectly and revealed only during checkout. (In my experiences, Walmart is particularly bad about this.)

(7) I will probably never buy a pie crust again. They are so easy to make, especially if done in batches using a food processor, and the difference in taste and texture is absolutely remarkable. It makes washing the food processor worth it. Almost.

That's the extent of my conclusions for now. Stay tuned...I'm sure there will be more mind-blowing revelations to come. Until then, check out my reviews over at Pam's Pantry Reviews.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Zucchini Crunch Bars

It's been way too long since I've posted anything, but vacations and relocating with two boys, a husband, and a dog will excuse the blogging absence, I hope.

This recipe is great for summer when zucchini is abundant, and it's perfect for those prodigious specimens that escape picking until they're the size of a caveman's club. I pieced together several recipes and, with some tweaking, came up with Zucchini Crunch Bars (a spin-off of my Cranberry Crunch Bars). I don't have a picture since I gave most of it away and the piece I ate was one that fell apart, but I'll be making more. I bet once you take a bit you won't be able to tell there's squash in this dessert.

Zucchini Crunch Bars

20 oz. (~ 8 cups) peeled, seeded zucchini, cut into small chunks to look like apples
2/3 cup lemon juice (bottled is fine)
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. nutmeg
1 pinch ground cloves
2 pinches salt

1 Tbsp. ice
2 tsp. cornstarch

Combine zucchini, lemon juice, sugars, and spices in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes, until the zucchini becomes translucent but not soft. (A knife should be able to pierce the zucchini, but there should be some resistance.) There should be a good amount of juice in the pan. Remove 3-4 Tbsp. liquid from the pan into a cup or bowl; stir in the cornstarch and ice until cornstarch is dissolved. Pour the mixture back into the pan and cook a bit longer, until the juices become thick. Set aside to cool.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Make the crumb topping/crust:

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
1 1/2 cup old fashioned oats
3/4 cup all-purpose flour

Melt the butter in a large bowl; then add the sugar, oats, and flour. Mix well. Sprinkle 2/3 mixture into a prepared 9x13 baking dish. Pour the zucchini mixture over the crumb topping/crust. Sprinkle the rest of the oat mixture over the top of the zucchini. Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes or until edges are slightly brown and caramelized and the center is bubbling. Cool completely, cut into squares, and serve.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Pam's Pantry Reviews

It's been a while since I've been able to post any recipes; we're getting ready to move/start a new job soon, so life is a bit hectic. (Okay, it's a bit hectic with an infant and toddler anyway, but it's even more hectic when the toddler unpacks boxes that you're packing...) Meanwhile, I wanted to share a new site with you: Pam's Pantry Reviews (http://pamspantryreviews.blogspot.com) I'm prepping quite a few products to share, so be sure to check them out!

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Poppy Seed Dressing

With all the fresh lettuces and veggies available now, it's definitely salad time! I don't buy salad dressing any more; I just make my own. It's (a) cheaper, (b) tastes better, (c) easier because I have the ingredients on hand, and (d) I can make as much/little as I need. This recipe is one of my favorites from a hometown cookbook. While the recipe yields a quart, you can certainly scale it down without any problems. It's a little on the sweet side, so feel free to cut down on the sugar, too. I find it gets better the longer it sits, so make some now and enjoy it in a day or two, or perhaps in a month or two. It keeps beautifully in the fridge.

Poppy Seed Dressing

1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tsp. dry mustard
1 tsp. salt
2/3 cup white vinegar
2 cups canola oil
2 Tbsp. onion, grated
3 Tbsp. poppy seeds

Yield: 1 quart

Mix (whisk together) all but oil & seeds. Add oil slowly (while whisking). Add seeds & beat well. Chill. Keeps for several weeks.

Recipe Courtesy: Triangle VFD Ladies Auxiliary Cookbook, p. 10

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Tian

The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris.

I don't know what came over me, but I just couldn't do citrus. I didn't even do a dessert. I made something savory instead, which is totally unlike me. So, I guess I was truly a "Daring Baker" this month: Golden Beet Tian with Balsamic Gastrique. My husband wasn't a fan, but he doesn't like beets. I thought it was tasty, but I don't think I'll make this particular dish again. The flavors were good, but I'll do another combination without the Pate Sablee. (While the gastrique tasted really good, it didn't photograph well-->)

My Golden Beet Tian consisted of 4 layers: Pate Sablee, Goat Cheese Mixture, Beets, and a Balsamic Gastrique

For the Pate Sablee:

2 egg yolks, room temperature

6 Tbsp + 1 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup + 3 Tbsp. butter, ice cold & cubed (use unsalted if making a dessert; I used salted)
1/3 tsp. salt (I used 1/2 tsp.)
1 1/2 cups + 2 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking powder

Put the flour, baking powder, ice cold cubed butter and salt in a food processor fitted with a steel blade.
In a separate bowl, add the eggs yolks, vanilla extract and sugar and beat with a whisk until the mixture is pale. Pour the egg mixture in the food processor.
Process until the dough just comes together. If you find that the dough is still a little too crumbly to come together, add a couple drops of water and process again to form a homogenous ball of dough. Form into a disc, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 350F.
Roll out the dough onto a lightly floured surface until you obtain a ¼ inch thick circle.
Using a large cookie cutter (mine was almost 4"), cut out circles of dough and place on a parchment (or silicone) lined baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes or until the circles of dough are just golden.

For the Goat Cheese Mixture (rough estimates...I didn't measure):
2 oz. goat cheese
1 oz mascarpone cheese
1 Tbsp. heavy cream

Mix thoroughly, adding more cream or milk if needed to thin to spreading consistency.

For the Beets:
Bunch of Golden Beets, tops cut off & beets washed, lightly oiled & generously seasoned with salt & pepper.

Roast beets in 400F oven until tender. Peel & slice thinly, ~1/8 inch.

For the Balsamic Gastrique:
Equal parts balsamic vinegar & granulated sugar. I used 1/4 cup each.

Combine in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low. Simmer until reduced and thickened to desired consistency.

To Assemble the Tian:

Have the layer ingredients prepared and ready to use.
Arrange the beets at the bottom of each cookie cutter. Make sure the slices all touch either and that there are no gaps. Make sure they fit snuggly and look pretty as they will end up being the top. Arrange them as you would sliced apples when making an apple tart.
Next, top with a couple spoonfuls of the goat cheese mixture, gently spreading it so that it fills the cookie cutter in an even layer.
Carefully place a circle of Pate Sablee over each ring. Gently press on the circle of dough to make sure the dessert is compact.
(Note: If the dough does not fit, use a microplane grater to gently 'file' down the edges until you have the correct size.)

Using a small knife, gently go around the edges of the cookie cutter to make sure it will be easy to unmold. Gently place your serving plate on top of an unmolded tian (on top of the circle of dough) and turn the plate over. Gently remove the cookie cutter. Drizzle with the Balsamic Gastrique and serve immediately.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

So the menu for dinner was Italian, and I needed a veggie side. I remembered that I had some pre-cut broccoli florets in the fridge, and I also remembered I'd seen Ina Garten roast broccoli. After a quick recipe search (with some adaptations, of course), the broccoli was in the oven, and we were treated to a delicious new side dish. I was really pleased with this dish, and friends with whom we shared the meal also raved about it. That's why I'm sharing it here - it's definitely a keeper.

Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli

2 to 2.5 pounds broccoli (or ~24 oz. florets)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced (or 1-2 tsp. minced garlic)
olive oil
kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
~1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (~1 large lemon)
~2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice (~1/2 large lemon)
Parmesan or Romano cheese

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.

Cut the broccoli florets from the thick stalks, leaving an inch or two of stalk attached to the florets, discarding the rest of the stalks. Cut the larger pieces through the base of the head with a small knife, pulling the florets apart. You should have about 4 cups of florets. Place the broccoli florets in a large bowl and toss with a few tablespoons of olive oil, garlic, and salt & pepper to taste. Pour broccoli mixture onto a sheet pan large enough to hold it in a single layer. Roast for 20 to 25 minutes, until crisp-tender and the tips of some of the florets are browned.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and immediately toss with the lemon zest and lemon juice*. Use a vegetable peeler and shave the Parmesan or Romano cheese over the broccoli. Serve hot.

*If desired, you can also add nuts to this recipe. Add 2-3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts or slivered/sliced almonds when you add the lemon zest & juice just before serving.

Adapted from Ina Garten

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Daring Bakers - Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession. (And, I'm actually posting on time...it's a miracle.)

It's hard for me to believe that the tiramisu as we know it today, was born in the 1970s. Somehow, I thought it had been around at least 100 years. I guess people had more important things to do 100 years ago than stand around a kitchen all day long to make this labor intensive, yet luciously decadent "pick-me-up" dessert.

Yes, I said labor intensive. Especially if you do the 'real' thing and don't take shortcuts. The challenge was to make your own savoiardi (ladyfingers) and marscapone cheese. The tiramisu also involved making your own zabaglione and pastry cream. Since we'd already made ladyfingers once, and I knew where I could buy some ready-made, I used those instead. [Sorry, I have two small children and a life....something had to give.]

I did make the marscapone, and I'm glad to have the recipe since I often can't find it in the grocery store. I used ultra-pasturized heavy cream (not recommended) mixed with some whole milk; it was a bit loose, but it seemed to work okay. The zabaglione was really tasty, but since it was so lemony, I omitted the lemon from the pastry cream.

My overall opinion: the 'parts' all tasted really good on their own - as a whole, the flavor was quite good, but the tiramisu was the lightest I've ever eaten. In fact, I think it was too light. I'm glad I didn't add the lemon zest to the pastry cream; it would have been too overwhelming. It may have been that the marscapone was too loose, but it the finished product just wasn't firmed-up enough for my taste. After all, with all those eggs & cream, I was expecting something more filling. I dusted the top with dutch-process cocoa powder, and if I make this again, I think I'll dust the top of each ladyfinger layer with it since it worked well with the coffee. However, I'll definitely be altering the rest of the recipe before I make it again.

Ok folks, this is a long one (my changes in italics):


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings (I doubled everything for a 9x13 dish)

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 Tbsp sugar
1/4 cup Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest (I omitted)
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups brewed espresso, warmed
1 tsp rum extract (optional) (I omitted)
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (I used 4 packs)
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used dutch-process)


For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/coffee), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest (optional) and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu:
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do; double ingredients for a 9x13) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract (optional) and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is such a versatile veggie, good for roasting, pureeing, and, of course, being made into a velvety soup. America's Test Kitchen developed this recipe, and it's definitely a winner in my book. The flavor and texture are just right - not too sweet, not too squash-y. And it's a beautiful shade of orange (and I'm not just saying that because I live in TN)! This soup is perfect for a cold, wet, and/or windy day, and it's worth the little bit of effort it takes to make it. It's a delicious way to use up any squash you may have stashed in your pantry.

Butternut Squash Soup

4 Tbsp. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2-3 Tbsp. grated onion (use 1 large shallot if you've got it)
3 pounds butternut squash (~1 large), cut in half lengthwise, then each half cut in half widthwise; seeds and fibers scraped out and reserved
6 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon dark brown sugar
pinch grated nutmeg (optional)

Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot over medium-low heat until foaming. Add the shallot/onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the seeds and fibers from the squash and cook, stirring occasionally, until the butter turns a saffron color, about 4 minutes.

Add the water and 1 teaspoon salt to the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, place squash cut-side down in a steamer basket and lower into the pot. Cover and steam squash until completely tender, about 30 minutes. Take the pot off the heat and transfer the squash to a rimmed baking sheet to cool. When cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the skin into a bowl. (Discard the skin.)

Strain the steaming liquid through a mesh strainer into another bowl (or large measuring cup). You should have 2.5-3 cups liquid. Discard the fibers & seeds.

Puree the squash in batches in a blender, pulsing on low and adding enough reserved liquid to obtain a smooth consistency. Transfer the puree back into the stockpot and stir in the remaining liquid (until desired consistency is reached), cream, and brown sugar. Warm the soup over medium-low heat until hot (do not boil). Stir in nutmeg (if using) and adjust the seasonings. Serve immediately.

Adapted from Cooking at Home with America's Test Kitchen (2006)

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pork Tinga with Potatoes & Fresh Cheese

I'm a big fan of cooking shows on PBS. Our local station airs quite a variety, and just recently I've discovered Rick Bayless' Mexico - One Plate at a Time. I love Mexican food, so of course I was intrigued. Rick shows the origins of the food he makes (shot on-site in Mexico), then returns to his home in Chicago to recreate the dishes. Since this one was made in the slow cooker and didn't have any 'exotic' ingredients (i.e., I actually had all the ingredients already), I had to try it. I'd never even heard of tinga before, but this recipe yields melt-in-your-mouth pork and potatoes covered in a deeply flavored tomato sauce that is excellent with corn tortillas. It's the 'least effort for the most flavor' dish I've ever made. It may not photograph very well, but it is simply delicioso.

Pork Tinga with Potatoes & Fresh Cheese

1 Tablespoon canola or olive oil
1 pound lean, boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
4 ounces chorizo sausage, removed from its casing (optional - I left this out)
4 to 5 medium (about 3/4 pound total) red-skinned potatoes, chopped into ~3/4-inch cubes
1 large white or yellow onion, sliced 1/4–inch thick
1 garlic clove, minced
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, in juice (preferably fire-roasted)
2 to 3 canned chipotle chiles, en adobo, finely chopped
1 Tablespoon chipotle canning sauce
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
For serving:
About 1/2 cup crumbled Mexican queso fresco or other fresh cheese like salted pressed farmers cheese
Sour cream
1 ripe avocado, pitted, flesh scooped from the skin and diced (optional)
Warm corn tortillas (wrap ~10 corn tortillas in a heavily damp paper towel and microwave for 1 minute, then place in tortilla warmer or wrap in a clean kitchen towel)


Heat the oil in a stovetop-rated slow cooker* liner over medium-high heat. (If your slow cooker liner isn’t made from a material that can be used on a stovetop, use a very large (12-inch) non-stick skillet.) Once the oil is very hot, add the pork and chorizo (if using) in an single layer and cook, stirring until the meat has browned, about 6 to 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and if you’re using a skillet, transfer the meat and its juices into the slow cooker. Add the potatoes.

In a large bowl, combine the onions, garlic, tomatoes, chipotles, adobo sauce, Worcestershire, oregano and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Pour mixture into the slow cooker and stir to mix thoroughly. Cook for 6 hours at the highest temperature.
After six hours, gently stir the tinga. If the sauce seems too thick, stir in a little water. Taste, and season with salt if you think the dish needs it.

*For stove-top cooking, brown the meat in a large, heavy-bottomed pot (i.e., Dutch oven). Add remaining ingredients to the pot as directed for slow-cooker. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then lower the heat. Simmer for ~2 to 2 1/2 hours.

Scoop into a large bowl. Serve with warm tortillas and queso fresco, sour cream, & avocado (if using) on the side.

Recipe adapted from Rick Bayless' Mexico - One Plate at a Time, Season 7

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Daring Bakers - Nanaimo Bars

The January 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Lauren of Celiac Teen. Lauren chose Gluten-Free Graham Wafers and Nanaimo Bars as the challenge for the month. The sources she based her recipe on are 101 Cookbooks and www.nanaimo.ca.

This month's challenge was my first one in quite a while, and, well...I cheated, not to mention that I'm posting late. I didn't get a chance to make the graham wafers (and couldn't have done the gluten-free version anyway since I couldn't find the flours I needed in one store and wasn't going to haul a toddler & infant all over town to find what I needed). So, I used pre-made graham wafers in the Nanaimo Bars. I did, however, gain a better understanding of how much of a pain-in-the-rear cooking and baking are for those who must adhere to a gluten-free diet. (And also how expensive it is...non-wheat flours are pricy!) I do want to make the graham wafers (using whole wheat pastry flour) since I cannot find a brand in the store that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient. I'll post it here when I do make them, but meanwhile, on to the Nanaimo Bars.

My guinea pigs guests, loved these. They are very rich due to all the butter. I thought they were good, but they weren't outstanding. The bottom layer was my favorite part. I'm glad I toasted the coconut and almonds, but I think the ratios should have been reversed. In fact, if I had doubled the amounts for the bottom layer (except the coconut) and just left it at that, I think I would have liked them much better. My husband wasn't a huge fan either, so the plan is to re-work the recipe and make it minty (and without the coconut, of course). Here's the recipe as I made it.

Nanaimo Bars

For Bottom Layer

1/2 cup unsalted Butter

1/4 cup granulated Sugar

5 Tablespoons unsweetened Cocoa

1 large egg, beaten

1 1/4 cups Graham Wafer Crumbs (about 8 pre-made whole crackers)

1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped (I used slivered & toasted them)

1 cup coconut, shredded (I used sweetened & toasted it)

For Middle Layer

1/2 cup unsalted butter

2 Tablespoons and 2 teaspoons heavy cream

2 Tablespoons Vanilla Custard Powder (Such as Bird’s. Vanilla pudding mix may be substituted - I used SF French Vanilla)

2 cups icing/confectioner's sugar

For Top Layer

4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter


1. For bottom Layer: Melt unsalted butter, sugar and cocoa in top of a double boiler. Add egg and stir to cook and thicken. Remove from heat. Stir in crumbs, nuts and coconut. Press firmly into an ungreased 8 by 8 inch pan.

2. For Middle Layer: Cream butter, cream, custard powder, and icing sugar together well. Beat until light in colour. Spread over bottom layer.
(Chill thoroughly.)
3. For Top Layer: Melt chocolate and unsalted butter over low heat. Cool. Once cool, spread over middle layer and chill.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Two-Toned Fudge

I know the holidays are over. Resolutions have been made. And broken. Or some perhaps kept thus far. But you really should try this fudge.

It's a classic combo of chocolate and peanut butter, so you know it's going to be delicious. I also really liked the texture of the fudge; the chocolate part melts in your mouth while the peanut butter layer has a bit more 'chew' to it. You could call this Reese's PB Cup Fudge I suppose. If you're a fudge lover, nota bene - this is addictive. Just make it for a gathering, and you'll be good to go.

Two Toned Chocolate Peanut Butter Fudge

1 cup peanut butter chips
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips (I used semisweet)
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 7 ounce jar marshmallow cream
3/4 cup evaporated milk
1/4 cup butter
1 tsp vanilla extract

Line an 8" X 8" pan with foil.

In 2 separate heat-safe medium bowls, place 1 cup peanut butter chips in one and chocolate chips in the other.

In a heavy 3 quart sauce pan, combine sugar, marshmallow creme, evaporated milk and butter. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils; boil and stir 5 minutes. Remove from heat and quickly stir in vanilla.

Working safely, but quickly, stir one-half of the hot mixture into peanut butter chips and the other half into the chocolate chips. Stir the peanut butter mixture until fully melted and quickly pour into prepared pan.

Stir the chocolate chips mixture until fully melted and carefully spread over top of peanut butter layer.

Let sit at room temperature until completely cool. Cut into small squares.

Recipe from Culinary in the Desert

Monday, January 11, 2010

Best Granola Ever

I did not grow up being a fan of granola. Nor do I particularly like the stuff you can buy in the store. But this. Oh, this granola is wonderful. It's not too sweet, has just the right amount of crunch/chew, and it's great on its own, with milk or yogurt, or as a topping for just about anything. I adapted the original recipe a bit, and for our family, it's just perfect. Feel free to change up the fruit or nuts to whatever suits your taste.

Best Granola Ever

1/2 cup honey (if you are using a honey that has crystallized, just melt it for a few seconds)
1/3 cup canola oil
6 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 cups rolled oats
1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 1/4 cups chopped nuts of your choice ( I use equal parts walnuts & slivered almonds)
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/4 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1/4 cup dried apricots, chopped (~6 apricots)
1/4 cup prunes chopped (~8 prunes)
1/4 cup golden raisins

Preheat oven to 350° and line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment or a silpat

Combine the honey, oil, water and vanilla, set aside.
Toss together all of the dry ingredients except the dried fruits.

Add the honey mixture and toss/stir until the oats are well covered.

Spread the granola over two rimmed baking sheets in a thin, even layer.

Total baking time will be 25-30 minutes. After 10 minutes toss the granola with a spoon or spatula and rotate the trays from top to bottom so they both bake evenly. Check again after another 10 minutes. Keep a close eye on it as it starts to turn brown so it doesn’t over bake. It will be a deep golden brown when it is done.

Allow the granola to cool on cooling rack and then put in a large bowl and add the dried fruit.

Recipe adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day